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#SailorOfTheYear - Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove have been named Afloat Irish Sailors of the Year for 2018 in recognition of their gold medal victory in the 49er U23 Junior World Championships, amid another landmark 12 months for inspiring performances in Irish sailing.

September’s Olympic Sailors of the Month were presented with their prize by Minister of State Mary Mitchell-O’Connor at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin’s RDS Concert Hall this evening (Friday 8 February).

Robert Dickson (21) of Howth and Seán Waddilove (20) of Skerries rose to the challenge in Marseille last August and September as they battled a strong international field — and a Mistral at full strength — to score their first world gold, and their first major win.

“HowthHowth YC Commodore Joe McPeake (centre) at the reception to welcome home the new gold medallists Robert Dickson (left) and Sean Waddilove | Photo: Ian Dickson

It was down to the wire at the climax of the final race on Saturday 1 September as the Dublin duo led a chasing pack in the fleet of 52 boats.

However, their placing was no surprise to anyone following the former 420 pair’s performance during their week on the Cote D’Azur, with seven results out of their first nine races in the top five — and all that after starting out on only two days of training, with Robert levelled by a bout of food poisoning.

Going into the final day as leaders no doubt piled on the pressure, which must have doubled when gear failure in their 10th race saw them slip down the finish order.

But according to Robert, the pair played it cool. “We were still leading the regatta by three points which we didn’t know at the time,” he told Afloat.ie. “We never think about points. We need a clear mind to carry out our jobs on the water.”

What a job it was, too — and a testament to their skill and steely nerve that after that humbling stumble, they recovered to win the final and claim Ireland’s first ever major victory of their age group in the skiff class.

It was also vindication of more than year of extraordinarily hard work put in by both young men, after injury felled Seán in early 2017 and almost scuppered their campaign for the 2020 Olympics.

Far from it, the signs now look exceedingly bright for a stellar performance in Tokyo next year.

According to the International 49er Class — whose president Marcus Spillane must be delighted at his home nation’s achievements — the academy set-up in Ireland has been key to this country’s boost in competitiveness in the skiff. 

Despite the departure of Saskia Tidey to Team GB slowing down Irish 49erFX ambitions, on the men’s side the squad has grown since the split of Rio challengers Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern, the former forging a new partnership with Seafra Guilfoyle for Tokyo 2020 (McGovern retired last year and is now high performance manager with RYA NI). 

And indeed, Robert and Seán are an integral part of this growth.

Recounting for Afloat.ie his and Seán’s path to the title, Robert explains that for both it began well before any world-class ambitions. 

Each got into sailing as a child at club level, Robert sailing an Optimist alongside family in Lough Ree while Sean got his start via a taster course in Skerries. 

As their talent shone through and competitions became a matter of course, the two would meet and become friends on the national circuit, forming a bond as their success soon took them abroad. 

And after joining Irish Sailing’s Olympic Pathway in the Oppy class, it made perfect sense that they would team up to progress to the 420 class — in which they started training in their Transition Year — and then two years later to the 49er, often regarded as the ‘Formula 1’ of dinghy racing.

“Training with the 49er Development Squad and having a 100% committed coach makes training much more effective,” says Robert. “You can train solo but it’s not as effective as having a group of boats around you, pushing each other on and off the water to strive to be the best. This medal was certainly a team effort!”

That team, past and present, includes former 49er Development Team coach Tytus Konarzewski, Thomas Chaix, Ross Killian, ex-Olympic duo Ger Owens and Scott Flanigan, Graeme Grant, Philippe Boudgourd, John and David White, and sports physio Mark McCabe at SportsMed Ireland.

And that’s not to mention Robert and Sean’s families and fellow sailors, supportive clubs and sporting bodies — and their colleges that allow them to work classes and assignments around their full-on training schedule.

To confirm a suggestion proffered by the 49er class, the investment made in creating Olympic contenders like Laser Radial silver medallist (and 2016 Sailor of the Year) Annalise Murphy has indeed — in the success of Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove — been leveraged in bringing the next generation of youth and junior talent into the top levels of their age categories.

WM Nixon will have a profile of the 2018’s Afloat Sailors of the Year as well as the many worthy nominees in his Sailing on Saturday column, available later tonight right here on Afloat.ie.

“GuestsGuests taking their seats at the 2018 Volvo Irish Sailing Awards | Photo: David O’Brien

Robert and Seán topped another incredible field of nominees for 2018, among them faces recognised from 2017’s shortlist and years previous, as well as a fellow Olympic contender.

Liam Glynn was a Sailor of the Month in July for his bronze at the U21 Laser Worlds, while Peter and Rob O’Leary were stars in the Star class. Wins at home and abroad put Justin Lucas on our radar, as was Irish Topper number one Hugh O’Connor, and Firefly duo Atlee Kohn and Jonathan O’ShaugnnessyBrendan Lyden captained UCC1 to victory at the University Sailing Association Team Championship.

Last year’s Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty made the list again for his runaway victory in Class 3 at the RORC Caribbean 600 mere days after collecting his Afloat gong.

Tom Dolan topped the rookies in his first Figaro Minitransat, while Barry Byrne skippered the Irish Defence Forces to the top of the corinthian ranks (and second overall) in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, besides a successful defence of the Beaufort Cup at Cork Week.

Niall Dowling took line honours in the Round Ireland, while later in the year Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop topped the ISORA standings.

The inspirational Enda O’Coineen was no April fool as he completed his delayed circumnavigation for his own personal Vendée Globe milestone.

Pat Kelly and company got off to a flying start on their J/109 Storm, while windsurfer Oisin van Gelderen set new Irish speed records in Luderitz.

Classic boating was ably represented by Ilen restorer Gary MacMahonDave Cullen’s Wave Regatta champion Checkmate XV and Mermaid fan Darragh McCormick, while Darryl Hughes found a fruitful partnership with his vintage ketch Maybird.

Peter Kennedy fought hard to claim his All-Ireland title, Molly Breathnach cruised her way to a spot on the list, Fintan Cairns showed true leadership vision with the DBSC Turkey Shoot, and Donal O’Sullivan bowed out from his role at the same club after decades of unparalleled contributions.

Former sailmaker Ross Kearney is now sailing for the love of it, while Mark Lyttleproved he’s still winning calibre with his Grand Masters title in September.

And Gregor McGuckin got a nod in September for his selfless actions during the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe Race, racing to the aid of the injured Abilash Tomy with his own storm-worn yacht under jury rig.

In the night’s other prizes, Irish Sailing president Jack Roy presented the Senior Instructor Award to Southern Region winner Ellen O’Regan of Schull and the Fastnet Marine & Outdoor Education Centre for her exceptional instructor management abilities and skills.

Bray Sailing Club took one of the night’s two new categories as the Inclusion Award was presented by Gina Griffin to senior instructor Jack Hannon for his work on the Watersports Inclusion Games. The club was also named Training Centre of the Year for 2018 (presented by Cllr Ossian Smyth).

Howth Yacht Club and the Royal Cork Yacht Club shared the inaugural Sustainability Award, presented by Irish Sailing’s new sustainability ambassador Damian Foxall.

And Youth Sailor of the Year, presented by Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy, is the National Yacht Club’s Nell Staunton, one of the standouts of Ireland’s Laser Radial youth squad and eighth-place finisher in last summer’s Youth Sailing Worlds in Texas. 

Hosted once more by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, the night as always welcomed guests from Irish club and high performance sailing — youth and veteran, professional and corinthian.

Among the 500 people in attendance at the RDS Main Hall were Volvo Car Ireland MD David Thomas and PR and events executive Emma O’Carroll; from RYA NI, chair Jackie Patton (also of the Atlantic Youth Trust) and chief executive Richard Honeyford; and UK Sailmakers’ Barry Hayes.

Representing the Olympic Federation of Ireland were CEO Peter Sherrard, secretary Sarah O’Shea and Colm Barrington, first vice president and former chairman of Irish Sailing’s Olympic Steering Group. 

From the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport were assistant secretary Deirdre O’Keeffe and Peter Horgan, principal officer of sports policy and the National Sports Campus, while Fianna Fáil spokesperson for sport Robert Troy also joined the evening.

From Dun Laoghaire’s waterfront were harbourmaster Simon Coate; National Yacht Club Commodore Ronan Beirne with Vice Commodore Martin McCarthy and club archivist Frank Burgess; Royal Irish YC Commodore Joseph Costello; Royal St George Vice Commodore Peter Bowring; and DMYC Commodore Frank Guilfoyle

Representing the rest of Co Dublin were Dublin Bay Sailing Club’s new honorary secretary Chris Moore; Howth YC’s Vice Commodore Emmet Dalton with the club’s Rear Commodores Paddy J Judge and Ian Malcolm, race officer Richella Carroll and communications officer Brian Turvey; and Malahide YC Commodore Matt Ryan and Rear Commodore Ciaran O’Reilly.

Also in attendance were Bray Sailing Club’s outgoing Commodore Darina Porter, incumbent Boris Fennema, treasurer Torren Gale, and Jack Hannon; Skerries Sailing Club Commodore Kathryn Collins with Vice Commodore Liam O’Callaghan; and Dublin Port Company assistant harbour master Tristan Walsh.

Cork’s flag was flown by Kinsale Yacht Club Commodore David O’Sullivan and Vice Commodore Michael Walsh, along with Baltimore Sailing Club Commodore Niall O’Neill, and Royal Cork’s Admiral Pat Farnan, general manager Gavin Deane and sustainability chair Aoife Deane.

RTÉ broadcaster Fergal Keane; Volvo Ocean Race photographer Brian Carlin; Sailing Into Wellness founder Colin Healy, World Sailing delegates Con Murphy and Paddy Boyd; Nobby Reilly, formerly of ICRA; and former ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney were also in attendance.

Guests were also given a special up-close look at some of the boat models sailed by Ireland’s next generation of high achievers in sailing at home and abroad.

“BoatsBoats on display at the rear of the RDS hall during the 2018 Volvo Irish Sailing Awards | Photo: David O’Brien

Ian O’Meara of Viking Marine and Pierce Purcell Jr and Nicky Bendon of CH Marine represented the dinghy scene presenting Lasers and a Topper respectively, while Kenny Rumball of the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School brought along a training Optimist and RS Quest — and Gerry Salmon, Joss Walsh and Martin Salmon of yacht broker MGM Boats showed a scale model of the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 that wowed the Paris Boat Show in December.

Hosted by Irish Sailing with Afloat magazine, the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards aim to highlight the breadth of sailing across the country.

Afloat’s Sailor of the Year awards have been running since 1996, recognising over 500 Irish sailors in that time. The awards “were originally formulated to bring a bigger profile to sailing achievements that do not get their fair share of the media coverage,” says editor David O’Brien. “Now these achievements are reaching a wider audience than ever before.”

Afloat.ie neared 1.3 million visitors in 2018 — an audience the publication is eager to share with Ireland’s sailing community.

“Afloat.ie wants to work with every club and every class in the country,” says O’Brien. “Please get in touch.”

Update Saturday 9 February: This article was corrected to show that Bray Sailing Club won Training Centre of the Year and not Lough Swilly Yacht club as previously indicated.

Published in ISA

The wait is nearly over to find out who will be named Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year for 2018 at the star-studded Volvo Irish Sailing Awards in Dublin’s RDS this Friday 8 February.

Once again the country’s finest sailors will be recognised for their achievements across a host of categories including youth sailing, training, inclusion and sustainability.

However, the award most pertinent to Afloat.ie readers will be the one they’ve had a hand in selecting from a year of remarkable feats at home and abroad via our online poll of the boating public and maritime community.

Winkie Nixon rounds up the worthy nominees from Afloat.ie Sailors of the Month between January and October, while the final list added five more picks from November and December: speed sailor Oisin Van Gelderen; offshore pair Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop; Donal O’Sullivan, who recently retired as DBSC Honorary Secretary; Dun Laoghaire’s Fintan Cairns; and classic boat sailor Darryl Hughes.

Sailing’s best and brightest won’t be the only VIPs in attendance, as Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Sport Ireland chief John Treacy and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Cathaoirleach Ossian Smyth will be on hand to present awards on the night.

In addition, luminaries from Irish club and high performance sailing, national champions, class captains, club commodores, previous Sailors of the Year, and world and Olympic veterans and hopefuls alike will be among the more than 400 guests gathered at the RDS this Friday night for the annual celebration of excellence in Irish sailing, hosted by returning master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger.

Guests will also have an opportunity to get a special up-close look at some of the very boat models sailed by this year’s award nominees.

The dinghy scene will be represented by chandleries CH Marine and Viking Marine displaying the Laser Radial, Topper and Optimist, while the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School’s RS200 will also be in the hall — and yacht broker MGM Boats will have a scale model of the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 that wowed the Paris Boat Show in December.

In all it’s shaping up to be another fantastic night toasting the very best sailing in Ireland has to offer — and if you can’t be there in person on the night, be sure to stay tuned to Afloat.ie this Friday evening for the announcement of 2018’s Sailor of the Year.

Published in ISA

Join Irish Sailing for an evening of celebration at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards, taking place on Friday 8 February at the RDS, Dublin when the country’s finest sailors are recognised for their achievements.

There are also awards for Training Centre, Senior Instructor, Inclusion, Sustainability and Youth Sailor.

Sailor of the Year

Taken from the Afloat.ie Sailors of the Month list which you can find here. You can also cast a vote for your sailor of the year in an online poll on the right-hand column.

Irish Sailing Youth Sailor of the Year - Shortlist

This award is given to a young sailor under the age of 18 who has achieved an excellent performance representing Ireland internationally.

  • Nell Staunton
  • Tom Higgins 
  • Rian Geraghty-McDonnell

Irish Sailing Training Centre of the Year - Shortlist

Given in recognition of outstanding services to training.

  • Western Region winner: Lough Swilly Yacht Club
  • Southern Region winner: Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre
  • Eastern Region winner: Bray Sailing Club

Irish Sailing Senior Instructor of the Year - Shortlist

The Volvo Irish Sailing Senior Instructor of the Year is given in recognition of exceptional instructor management abilities and skills

  • Western Region winner: Andrew Moran, Mayo Sailing Club
  • Southern Region winner: Ellen O’Regan, Fastnet Marine & Outdoor Education Centre
  • Eastern Region winner: Alex Pocock, Blessington Sailing Club

There are limited tickets available – to register please email [email protected] and you can check out our website page for updates, photos and videos here

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Tonight at the RDS in Dublin, over 400 people will gather for the Afloat.ie Volvo Irish Sailing Awards to celebrate some maginificent achievements from 2017. As previewed this morning in the Irish Times, offshore sailing achievements look set to be a highlight of the evening where a dozen offshore feats include a top ten Fastnet Race result, a RORC series points winner plus a Transatlantic Race win.

Hosted once more by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, the night as always welcomes guests from Irish club and high performance sailing, including Irish Sailings youth and Olympic squads, national champions at all levels, class captains, club commodores, previous Sailors of the Year, and world and Olympic sailors.

See the full list of Afloat.ie's 'Class of 2017' in Winkie Nixon's review of the Sailors of the Month here.

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There's a last chance to register for the Afloat.ie and Volvo Irish Sailing Awards, taking place at 6.30pm at the RDS Concert Hall, Dublin, this Friday 9 February that will see the presentation of the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year Award. 

This year at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards we’re celebrating heroism and rescue on the high seas, the young talent storming their way up the ranks, the training centres and instructors setting the standards in teaching, the plethora of people who compete around Ireland and further afield, and the volunteers who make it all happen. 

We’re also flying over Santiago Alegre from Spain and Simon Hoffman from Australia. These two young men saved the life of Johnny Durcan, one of the Irish Sailing High Performance sailors last summer in California, and we’ll be talking to them to hear what happened. We’ll also be talking to Jay Stacy, who saved the life of one of his crew when a rogue wave hit their boat off the coast of Wexford. 

As well as recognising these heroes and some other very special guests, we’ll have awards for the best youth sailor (under 18), the best training centre, senior instructor, and end with our Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year.

Please register for your free tickets at [email protected]

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Nearly one week to go before the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards, and the judges have been weighing up the nominations for the very last time. You still have time to register for tickets for the Awards, taking place in the RDS Dublin on the evening of Friday 9 February. And you can win a trip to the final of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 into the bargain too! 

This year as well as the overall Afloat.ie award the night also celebrates heroism and rescue on the high seas, the young talent storming their way up the ranks, the training centres and instructors setting the standards in teaching, the plethora of people who compete around Ireland and further afield, and the volunteers who make it all happen. Irish Sailing is flying over Santiago Alegre from Spain and Simon Hoffman from Australia. These two young men saved the life of Johnny Durcan, one of Irish Sailing's High Performance sailors this summer in California, and we’ll be talking to them to hear what happened.

Please register for your free tickets at [email protected]

Win a trip to the Final of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18!

To celebrate Volvo Car Ireland’s sponsorship of Irish Sailing and the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards, Volvo are offering you the chance to win a trip for two to witness the final of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018.

The Final will take place in Scheveningen Harbour, The Hague, Netherlands in June 2018. The prize includes two nights accommodation in a four star hotel for two people, dinner on both nights and a tour of the Volvo Ocean Race village.

To enter simply click on the link below and sign up for a test drive at your local Volvo Dealer between now and the 8th of February. The winner will be announced on the 9th of February at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards here.

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Voting is now closed in the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year award, and the adjudicators are working towards a final decision which will be announced as the climax of the Volvo Sailing Awards ceremony in the RDS in Dublin on Friday, February 9th.

The voting has attracted strong worldwide interest, and participation by thousands. But as in previous years, the number of votes cast is just one of several factors assisting the adjudicators in reaching a decision which they feel most truly reflects the greatest achievement and contribution to our sport by an Irish sailor in 2017.

As expected, following the dominance of 2016 by the Olympics and Annalise Murphy’s Silver Medal, 2017 has been an entirely different type of sailing year. There have been many notable achievements across the widest possible diversity of our sport. While the adjudicators would like to honour them all, in the end the supreme award will have just one recipient. It is no easy task deciding who it will be.

Are you coming to the Awards? Register here to reserve your place: [email protected]

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With a readers poll already showing trends in the Sailor of the Year Award stakes, the ceremony itself is less than a month away. 

The past year, in the view of Winkie Nixon, has produced some 'extra-special sailors', and over the past 12 months we have picked out 28 individual sailors and pairings who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruise or powerboating.

On Friday, February 9, our judging panel will announce the Sailor of the Year at the RDS in Dublin — and you can have your say by voting in our poll on any page of the Afloat website

The overall award will be announced at a ceremony which will also see each Sailor of the Month individually honoured.

The Awards take place on Friday 9 February 2018 at the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Come and join us and special guests to celebrate the sailing year with awards for Training Centre of the Year, Senior Instructor of the Year, Youth Sailor, and Sailor of the Year, in association with Afloat.

Register now for your tickets to the ceremony by contacting the team at Irish Sailing, [email protected]

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2017 by using our online poll (see right of page). The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision, but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

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Although it was no surprise when Annalise Murphy was enthusiastically acclaimed as the Volvo Sailor of the Year 2016 last night in Dublin, the ceremonies around her “coronation” were a reminder that our boat sports and amateur sailors are great in their diversity writes W M Nixon.

Taken at the gallop, Irish sailing in 2016 was all about the Olympics, the Round Ireland race, and the Laser Radial Worlds in Dublin Bay. Yet while those who were our top achievers in these majors were duly honoured in the RDS Concert Hall in front of a capacity crowd, the eclectic nature of the many other achievements, harvested from a year-long assessment of notable success at home and abroad, spoke volumes of how difficult it can be for outsiders to grasp what it’s all about.

The lists speak for themselves, and the fierce joy in the Foynes Yacht Club contingent at being hailed as the ISA Training Centre of the Year was both a delight to behold, and a reminder of just how much enthusiastic volunteerism is at the core of our sport.

Foynes yacht clubFoynes Yacht Club was named ISA Training Centre of the Year. Scroll down for photo gallery

Yet equally, when within minutes you see on the same stage the hugely successful powerboat skipper John Ryan who took his mighty machine round Ireland in just over twelve hours in a shrewdly chosen calm period in May, and then his place is taken by the July cruising winners Paraic O’Malriada and his wife Myra Reid, who took a leisurely six years to cruise round the world from Kinsale in their 54ft ketch, then you’re reminded that there are as many different approaches to going to sea a there are people who set foot in a boat – and that’s before you begin to try and explain how many different types of boat sports there are.

That said, it was a timely occasion to remind the world in general and the powers that be that it was only in boat sports that Ireland won any Olympic medals at all. But then you still come up against the general public perception that boats and all to do with them are at least odd, and very probably have a touch of the luxurious and the elite about them too.

Thus it was fascinating to see the response when the Special Award for July went to Commandant Barry Byrne and his Defence Forces team who became the first winners of the Beaufort Cup when it became one of the central features of Cork Week.

Originally introduced for competition between teams with direct military connections, it was rapidly expanded to include any national agencies with maritime connections such as the search and rescue services. And Commandant Byrne and his team in their full uniforms made such an impression that by the night’s end, noted sailors such as Paddy Boyd and Brian Mathews, who are both former members of the merchant marine, were talking about putting together a team to represent themselves and their former shipmates, which would surely be in the accessible spirit of the Beaufort Cup.

Thus although Colin Morehead of the Royal Cork YC very deservedly received a President’s Award for the sterling work he has done in implementing the ISA’s Try Sailing initiative, it could well be that an unexpected by-product of the Beaufort Cup is a much greater change in the public perception of sailing than is achieved by really hard work through the club structure to persuade people to give sailing a go.

For after all, as the team members in each Beaufort Cup crew are drawn from all ranks, there’s something which strikes an unexpected chord in realising that, in a sailing boat, it could well be a junior who is instructing a senior. Certainly the thought that this might be going on as the 32–strong Beaufort Cup fleet slugged their way down to the Fastnet Rock in their overnight race was something which gave the event a truly democratic appeal.

Such thoughts and many others crowded through in an exceptionally packed schedule, and we’ll need to let the memories settle and get the photos properly in order before giving the final analysis of the Volvo Sailing Awards for 2016. But at least I got the answer to two questions which I’d been pondering. The first was the response from Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee Bay when I asked if the sunny photo which appeared on Afloat.ie of Optimist sailing in his winter course really was taken in the depths of December. The answer is yes, and there was no use of Photoshop to enhance it either.

The second was of Myra Reid as to whether or not she and Paraic really had celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary in the final year of their global circumnavigation cruise. The answer again was yes. Further to that, they’d the Golden Wedding Anniversary just six months ago. And on top of that again, Paraic Malriada only took up sailing as a retirement project at the age of sixty when he stopped fulltime work as an ace in brewer engineering. Then he and the wife go off and sail round the world…….. I tell you, we had some really fantastic people at the RDS last night.

Read also: 

Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy Is Irish Sailor Of The Year 2016

Celebrating 20 Years of Ireland's Premier Sailing Awards

Ireland's Sailors of the Month In 2016 At Their Peaks of Success

Published in W M Nixon
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#SailorOfTheYearOlympic hero Annalise Murphy has been named Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year for 2016.

August’s Sailor of the Month for her silver medal victory at Rio 2016 was presented with her prize by Irish Sailing Association (ISA) president David Lovegrove at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin’s RDS Concert Hall this evening (Friday 27 January).

Murphy was saluted by more than 300 of her fellow sailors, one of Irish sailing’s largest ever turnouts, for her Olympic triumph in the Laser Radial class – Ireland’s best achievement in sailing at the Games since David Wilkins and James Wilkinson won the Flying Dutchman silver at Moscow 1980.

That the National Yacht Club stalwart rallied from her heartbreak at London 2012, where she just barely missed out on a bronze medal, with an incredible display on the waters of Guanabara Bay made her success all the sweeter.

As Afloat.ie’s WM Nixon wrote in November, Murphy’s Olympic performance came after a 10-week transformation on the heels of a poor showing at the 2016 Worlds in Mexico:

“With her dedicated support team, she ensured that she’d become a hugely improved sailor, a fitter athlete and psychologically in a very good place, as she took on the Olympic challenge on August 8th with a cool confidence which in due course received its proper reward.”

It was an achievement that rightly captured the public’s imagination, too, providing Irish sailing with the greatest mainstream profile it’s enjoyed in years.

It’s already seen her recognised as The Irish Times/Sports Council of Ireland Sportswoman of the Year, Irish Tatler’s Woman of the Year, the Evening Echo’s Sports Star of the Year, and as one of Rehab’s two Sportspersons of the Year, not to mention her honorary membership of the Irish Sailing Foundation.

So it was surely to be expected that ‘Our Annalise’ would capture the public vote on Afloat.ie, as well as the votes of the judging panel to earn the prestigious award for a second time upon its 20th anniversary – two decades after first honouring that year’s own Olympic dinghy hero Mark Little, and four years on from her first win in recognition for her stellar efforts in London.

Accepting her prize, Annalise Murphy said: “As a kid I learned that maybe I wasn't the most talented, but I worked the hardest and that’s how I handled my sailing at the Olympics, and that’s what I’d advise all sailors to do now.”

Adding that the standing ovation from the ISA “means a lot to me”, she noted that it was “great to see all the Irish sailing achievements here, and that’s what I love in our great sport. It’s not all about the racing.”

Racing is still very much on Annalise’s agenda, however, with the first stage of her Tokyo 2020 campaign set for the Laser Radial Worlds this August.

Annalise’s accolade must also be seen in light of her fellow deserving nominees, all winners of Afloat.ie’s Sailor of the Month awards, and all of whom made remarkable and significant contributions to Irish sailing throughout the year.

Among them are a GP14 world champion in Shane MacCarthy, a Round Ireland record by Damian Foxall, a pioneering Vendée Globe effort by Enda O’Coineen, and youth sailor and future Olympic medal prospect Finn Lynch.

Irish sailing’s next generation was recognised in its own right on the night with the presentation of the Youth Sailor of the Year prize to Afloat’s racing Sailor of the Month for July, Ewan McMahon, alongside the Training Centre of the Year gong that this year went to Foynes Yacht Club, and two ISA President’s Awards – to Scottish Series racer Colin Moore, and Annalise Murphy's coach Rory Fitzpatrick, the latter of whom said of his eventful year: “It’s not just the Olympic result, it’s the inspiration of Annalise’s discipline routine in Dun Laoghaire that drives on our Laser sailors.”

 

In his address earlier this evening, ISA president David Lovegrove said he was “bowled over by the achievements of our sailors both at home and abroad.

“For such a small country, we achieve great things and our sailors are truly inspirational ambassadors for our sports and our country. 2016 was a year to make us all proud.”

But Lovegrove also took time to “celebrate the everyday heroes in sailing who don’t always get recognised by awards and cups – the volunteers who dedicate so much time, energy and passion to our sport, and who share their knowledge and expertise with other sailors.

“From the race officials to the instructors, to the coaches and the mark layers, the safety crews and those who carry out a multitude of tasks onshore: we simply could not enjoy sailing the way we do without you. Thank you.”

Hosted by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, chief executive of Spinal Injuries Ireland, along with Lovegrove and Afloat.ie’s own WM Nixon, the evening welcomed guests including members of the ISA Olympic and youth sailing squads, training centre principal, national senior and youth champions, class captains and club commodores, and a number of past Olympians and Sailors of the Year.

Among the crowd were the Royal Cork's Sally O’Leary and her husband Anthony, 2010's Sailor of the Year, who are looking forward to the club’s dinghy fest, along with a band of club mates including Gavin Deane, Admiral John Roche and Rear Admiral Kieran O'Connell and Tom Durcan, who has just welcomed home his son Johnny from Australia, and Ted Crosbie who recently retired from racing.

Brian O’Sullivan and Francis Clifford represented Tralee Bay Sailing Club in the audience this evening, while Paddy Boyd, who was returned from a stint as CEO of Sail Canada, was also present, as were Chris and Sandra Moore of the Dublin Bay Sailing Club, Peter Ryan of ISORA, ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney from Foynes Yacht Club, and Martin McCarthy of Annalise’s home club, the National YC in Dun Laoghaire.

Others in attendance included Cormac Devlin, Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, and Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy.

Published in News Update
Page 1 of 4

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